Please summarize "A Man Who Had No Eyes" by Mackinlay Kantor.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mackinlay Kantor’s short story, “A Man Who Had No Eyes,” uses third person point of view to tell the story. The narrator begins the story on a beautiful spring morning. Mr. Parsons, a wealthy insurance man, steps out of his hotel, just as a blind beggar is coming down the street.  Parsons hears the tapping of the man’s cane and feels pity for him.  Parsons himself was once a struggling worker and despite some handicaps had become successful.

The beggar accosts Parsons telling him that he does not beg, but he sells lighters to make his money.  Unkempt and shabby, the beggar refuses to let the wealthy man go without buying his product. 

Certainly I'll help you out. As you say, I can give it to someone.  Maybe the elevator boy would...

Parsons pursues the conversation by asking the man how he lost his vision.The blind man tells the story of a chemical explosion that killed over one hundred men and injured two hundred more. About fifty of the men lost their sight.  Somewhat bitter because of the accident, the blind man denounces the company because they did not give the men any compensation for their injuries.

If I had lost my eyes in the war, okay.  I would have been well took care of.  But, I was just a worker, working for what was in it.  And I got it.  They was insured, don't worry about that.

He continues on by describing the reason why he was blind.  Some man came up behind him and kept him from getting out before the chemicals took his eyes. Expecting the wealthy man to respond financially, the beggar seems to gain Parsons' sympathy by the  drama of his story often told, and told for money.

Suddenly, the wind begins to swirl coolly around them.  Parsons tells the man that his story was a lie because he was the man in his story and the beggar had kept him from going out of the building. The blind man accuses Parsons of making fun of him; however, the successful man surprises both the beggar and the reader with the climactic statement that Parsons himself was blind as well.

Both men suffered the same fate but handled their handicaps in quite different ways. The lesson  is that it was not the blindness that was the real handicap for either man,  but the character of the person and how he dealt with his life.


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A Man Who Had No Eyes

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